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Climate Change and Displaced Persons

C eventFriday, 22 September 2023

Original : espagnol

"The Earth is a Place of Glory for God" St. Maria Eugenia


In the context of the TIME OF CREATION and the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, it is vital to get closer to the reality of climate change and its influence on the present migration phenomenon.

Among the multiple reasons why people decide to abandon their homes, lands, families, friendships, culture and their familiar environment, the effects of climate change exert a growing influence.

Long periods of drought, the irregularity and intensity of  infrequent rains, the gradual and irreparable thaw of the polar masses, the build-up of  water levels in the sea, the flooding of agricultural lands due to uncontrolled over-flow of rivers in times of hurricanes and the intensity and frequency of cyclones, together with the increasing desertification of many other areas causing  dramatic fires—all or any one of these factors are forcing the displacement and emigration of huge numbers towards other lands.

The article I am sharing with you here can help us to become a little more familiar with this migratory-ecological reality. https://www.sostenibilidad.com/cambio-climatico/la-tragedia-de-las-migraciones-por-el-cambio-climatico/


Environmental changes also cause millions of displaced persons around the world

When talking about climate change, the concepts that most people normally think of are pollution, rising temperatures, melting of the poles, acid rain and more.  However, there is a lesser known reality that affects millions of people around the world which will intensify in the future: those displaced by climate change.

Who are the involuntary protagonists of this phenomenon? According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), "Environmental migrants are people who, because of sudden or gradual changes in the environment that negatively affect their living conditions, are forced to - or decide to - leave their usual homes, either temporarily or permanently, and move to other parts of their own country or outside it”.

A figure without international legislation

It is currently difficult to quantify the number of these climate migrants since international legislation does not provide protection for those who flee for this reason but UNHCR - the United Nations refugee agency - predicts that in the next 50 years between 250 and 1,000 million human beings will leave their homes because of climate change.

For its part, the IOM says that in the last three decades, droughts and floods have tripled and changes in the environment have caused more displacement than those caused by war.

What factors cause climate migration?

According to the IOM, there are many factors that cause displacement due to climate change and they cannot always be separated from their political, social and economic aspects. However, IOM points out some environmental keys to better understand the problem:

  • The increasing occurrence of natural disasters resulting from changing climate conditions increases the number of humanitarian emergencies and therefore causes displacement of the affected population.
  • The incidence of global warming and its consequences on the living conditions, health and nutrition of a developing area can boost migration by worsening an already complicated situation.
  • As the sea level rises, many coastal areas and small islands can significantly worsen their conditions for hosting human life until they become directly uninhabitable and even disappear.
  • Problems arising from the scarcity of natural resources such as water or food can lead to tense situations or armed conflicts, which in turn force the civilian population to leave their place of origin.

Mitigation and adaptation of countries as a solution

To mitigate the effects of climate change on climate migrants, the United Nations has included in its Sustainable Development Goals the need to carry out mitigation measures by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to make cities and infrastructure more resilient to change. Technological innovation, energy efficiency and the implementation of renewable energies, among other measures, will play a key role in the future of environmental protection, economic growth and social development.

For its part, since 2000, the IOM has financed more than 500 projects in response to migration for environmental reasons.

Sources: Portal on migration for environmental reasons, Ecodes and El País.


Chabela Galbe, JPICS RA Team